When you think about New Year’s Eve, I imagine what usually comes to mind is going to a lively New Year’s Eve party, surrounded by friends and family, and watching the ball drop from Time’s Square in New York City on TV at midnight; followed by a flurry of activity of running around giving everyone in attendance a hug and a kiss and wishing them a Happy New Year. While this is certainly many people’s tradition, and has even been one of mine in the past, in the last few years, I have engaged in a more quiet, but deeply healing practice that has become my New Year’s Eve tradition. It is called the Burning Bowl Ceremony and is held at a local Unity Church close to where I live. At this service, each person in attendance symbolically releases what they do not want to carry into the new year and sets their intentions for what they desire to do, have, and be in the coming year. Participants have time to reflect and meditate on what they wish to release, and then, just outside the church, there are fire tenders who stand witness as each participant drops their sheet of paper noting what they want to release from the past year into the fire to burn those limitations in the burning bowl.

After the participants head back into the church, each person has time to envision the new year and write a letter to themselves that will be mailed back to them the following November, around Thanksgiving. When they receive this letter, they are able to see how far they have come with their intentions they set for themselves for the year.

I have found this practice to be a very powerful and effective way to set your intentions for the coming year, and to release what no longer serves you or what is holding you back. It is a practice I have done for at least the past 3 years with my husband and some of our friends, and it is a practice that I really love and look forward to each year.

If you do not have a church in your area that hosts something like this, you can certainly do a modified version of your own burning bowl ceremony. To do this, you might take some quiet time to write down all the things on paper which no longer serve you, and which you do not want to bring with you into the new year. Then, if you have a hibachi grill or something similar, bring it outside, and prepare a fire. You can then release your paper into the fire to release all the things you do not want to bring with you into the new year. Once you have done so, make sure the fire is fully extinguished before going back inside. After you have gone back in, you can then write a letter to yourself noting all that you wish to accomplish in the new year. Once completed, you can put it away in a folder, and note in your planner, or set a reminder for yourself on your phone, to open it on Thanksgiving of the coming year. Then, when you open it the following Thanksgiving, you will see how far you have come, as well as areas where you have made great strides, but perhaps still have some more work to do.

I offer this as a possible alternative to making new year’s resolutions that are all-too-often broken almost as soon as they’re declared. This practice has provided me with a way to, instead of proclaiming arbitrary resolutions, to intentionally set goals that I wish to achieve in the new year, as well as proactive steps I will take in order to achieve those goals. Knowing that you will receive a letter at Thanksgiving of the coming year also serves as a way to hold you accountable, as, when you receive the letter, it shows, in your own writing and own words, what your intentions were.

On this 18th day of the new year 2019, I wish each and every one of you a wonderful year ahead, full of self-discovery, goals realized, joy and happiness.

*Anne Sabagh is a Certified Life Coach based in Northern Virginia. She sees clients in person at Goose Creek Consulting in Centreville, VA, as well as conducting coaching sessions via phone or web from anywhere. Her personal website is http://freetobehsp.com.

She specializes in working with people dealing with mental and developmental health concerns in order to help them develop their greatest mental wellness possible. She is a highly sensitive person, an empath, and identifies as a person on the autism spectrum. As such, Anne brings a great deal of empathy to her work with clients.
She loves animals, music, and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in Northern Virginia with her wonderful husband Tony, and their beloved cat, Robin.
Accomplish your New Year’s resolution with some inspiration and a plan!

I haven’t come across many people who have succeeded in carrying out their New Year’s resolutions past the first week or two. Of course, we always set out with the best of intentions. Yet, no matter how hard we try, some unexplained force in nature tempts us to deviate from what we’ve committed to do—and then the guilt sets in and things spiral downhill.

What is it that causes us to break our New Year’s resolutions? Well, it could be many things such as a lack of energy, limited time, no support system, goals that do not meet the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound), an environment that provides too much temptation, and the list goes on. As a career coach, I’ve watched countless clients meet their goals with tremendous enthusiasm and success when they fully and wholeheartedly commit to and invest in the coaching process. So, rather than talk about the reasons why we fail, let’s take a coaching approach/perspective and ask a positive, productive question. Let’s figure out how we can succeed in our goals past January 15 and way beyond this year!

What is it really about the coaching process that helps individuals to attain their objectives (read: New Year’s resolutions)?  The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaches commit to providing a safe space for self-reflection and open and honest dialogue while ensuring confidentiality. We use a variety of tools and methods that often includes powerful questioning, mindfulness activities, and action planning. Coaches not only serve as your cheerleader, encouraging you along the way, but are also there to challenge you, help you look at different perspectives, and hold you accountable for what you say you are going to do. We ultimately partner with you to help you identify that intrinsic motivator—that inspiration—that comes from within and makes you want to move forward and get to that result!

Let’s say that you’re in a coaching session and you tell your coach that on a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 10 in terms of being committed to finding a new, fulfilling career that makes you want to jump out of bed every morning. The problem is, you don’t know where to begin. Your coach will likely partner with you to help you set up an action plan to get there one step at a time. The plan might include a series of short-term goals that you can take to make progress toward that ultimate objective. In addition, your coach will likely check in with you between sessions, see how you’re doing, and encourage your continued success. When you get stuck along the way, your coach will challenge you to explore why and help you set up a plan to overcome the road block.

As the year ends, and as you think about and commit to your New Year’s resolutions for 2019, I challenge you to take one additional step. I challenge you to leverage concepts from the coaching process to help you succeed. If you could benefit from additional support, the coaching staff at Goose Creek Consulting is always here to help. Let’s all be champions in achieving our New Year’s resolutions!

Lisa Krull is a Career and Leadership Coach at Goose Creek Consulting in Centreville, VA. Contact her at lisa@goosecreekconsulting.com or 703-574-6271.

(Did you know that the tradition of New Year’s resolutions on January 1 began during the reign of Caesar, way back in 49 B.C.? If you want to learn more, The Washington Post shed light on the tradition in a KidsPost article by Howard Bennett titled “Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?” originally published in 2012.)

By Jayson Blair

President Obama and Anthony Bourdain share a meal in Hanoi, Vietnam.
I woke up late in the morning. It was a little after 7 a.m. I have been sick for the past few days, so I decided to not rush into work. I made a cup of coffee in my kitchen and then walked over to the living room. Standing between the couch and my glass coffee table, I tapped each remote and turned on CNN.

The Breaking News headline, in those trademark white letters on a red background, slashed across the screen.
“CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61.”
My first thought was sad, but not surprising. I knew much of Bourdain’s story that he shared publicly and had a tangential connection to Bourdain through once working with his mother. I had liked her and it led me to follow his career as a chef, a guest on “Top Chef,” on his show “No Reservations” and, eventually, on his CNN program, “Parts Unknown,” a remarkable program that was as much about foreign correspondence as it was about food.
I walked away from the TV. Before I made it to it to the bathroom, I heard Alisyn Camerota, the CNN anchor, say the words “… in an apparent suicide.”  I turned back to the screen. I burst into tears.

Kate Spade, the fashion designer, poses with her iconic bags.
Another one lost to what Andrew Solomon, the noted author, calls “the Noonday Demon.”
“He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain, the former colleague from The New York Times, told the paper on the day of his death.

Only a few days before, Kate Spade, the renowned fashion designer who, like Bourdain, struggled with depression, hung herself in her Park Avenue apartment.

The night before her death, The New York Post reported that Spade, spoke with her father happily about planning a trip to California to look at colleges with her daughter.

Their deaths came in the same week that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates, defying prevention efforts, rose 25 percent between 1999 and 2006. More people die from committing violence upon themselves in the form of suicide than homicide and war combined.

In the days that followed the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, countless people spoke of the good moods both Bourdain and Spade were in during the days and weeks before their deaths, the bold plans for the future they discussed and lack of visible signs of suicidal ideation. In retrospect, however, the signs were all over like falling cherry petals on a Spring day.

Bourdain told the world in his book “Medium Raw” that after his first marriage ended in 2005 that he was “aimless and regularly suicidal.” He wrote of a time in the Caribbean where he was drinking and using drugs, driving recklessly each day and visiting brothels each night.

The only known accurate predictor of suicide is previous attempts. But, Kay Redfield Jamison, the eminent author and psychologist who lives with bipolar disorder, notes in her book on suicide, called “Night Falls Fast,” that suicide usually requires “multiple hits” in the form of some combination of a biological predisposition, major psychiatric illness and an acute life stress.

No doubt, some people try to conceal their plans for suicide, but Jamison notes that “most who commit suicide explicitly, and, often, repeatedly, communicate their intentions to kill themselves to others.”

Both Bourdain and Spade presenting with and acknowledged having major psychiatric illness, and each were encountering acute stress. For Bourdain, it was in the form of a grueling travel schedule at the same time his girlfriend was pictured on social media holding hands and embracing another man in France. For Spade, she was going through a difficult divorce.

There are contradictory reports about whether Spade, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Bourdain, who lived with depression, were being treated for their illnesses at the time of their deaths. Having a major psychiatric illness and stopping or never being treated, is another risk factor.

As someone who has both professionally and as a volunteer helped individuals who eventually committed suicide, who has lost friends and colleagues to suicide and who has been suicidal myself, I can say that there is little-to-no correlation between the outward appearance in the days and weeks before a suicide attempt.

One colleague at The New York Times who had depression and who committed suicide during an acute stress due to a divorce in 2002 was having positive conversations with friends the weekend before he hurled himself off the side of our building. Another colleague at The Times who committed suicide was remarkably positive with his family before jumping into the Hudson River off the George Washington Memorial Bridge.

Mental health clinicians use the term “affect” to describe how someone’s emotional state appears. This is different from their actual mood. For example, someone may smile at the same time they feel flat inside. Clinicians refer to this as “affect being incongruent with mood.”

That is why it is critical when people with major psychiatric disorders are experiencing acute stress to look beyond the surface and provide as much support as possible, even if it does not seem necessary. I have seen this more than once with my own eyes. When one client who was having job and personal life stresses committed suicide in 2015, it was on the cusp of being optimistic about a new treatment that could potentially address his acute depression and intense anxiety. While there is little that we can do to predict the randomness of life stresses, there is a lot we can do to promote our friends and family members receive medical treatment for mental health symptoms and are regularly screened when there are biological predispositions.

There are also periods, regardless of how people appear on the outside, where they are at great risk. After remission from an acute episode of bipolar disorder, for example, a person is at an especially high risk for relapse and suicide for about six months. Often, individuals who are depressed are at greater risk for suicide coming out of the bottom of their depression because they now, clinicians believe, have the energy to plan and execute on harming themselves. Sleep deprivation and suicide, for example, are also strongly correlated.

Given these nuances and the prevalence of suicide, perhaps, the best thing that all of us at risk and who want to help others can do is learn more about the factors that put people in jeopardy. Groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Active Minds have a wide variety of wonderful resources, including educational materials, available.

I understand why Bourdain and Spade are dead. My tears fell because I knew they did not have to.

In life Bourdain taught us about food and Spade taught us about fashion. In their deaths, my hope is that they help us learn a little bit about how to help prevent others from taking their lives.

Jayson Blair is the managing partner of Goose Creek Consulting and a board member or the International Bipolar Foundation.

By Astrid Richardson 

Fall is almost over and with winter quickly approaching, I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about wellness for the coming season. So, winter is coming...bringing with it cooler weather and holiday celebrations. For some, it's an exciting time and for others, it can be a stressful time. Whether exciting or not, maintaining balance continues to be important. Let's talk about how to maintain your wellness during this transitional time.

If you're like me, winter brings thoughts of and plans for the holidays. There are many opportunities to give thanks and celebrate in this season. With holiday celebrations comes holiday food, like cookies, cakes, cocktails, etc. If you're trying to maintain a healthy diet, however, the holidays can be challenging. There are few strategies that can help you stay on track and still enjoy these holiday treats. Fist, have a plan before attending any holiday function. Whether it's Thanksgiving dinner or the office holiday party, try to have a strategy for how you'll navigate the buffet table. You can eat a healthy snack before leaving home so you aren't starving when you arrive. It also helps to use the small plates and go back for seconds, if necessary. Enjoy a cocktail or wine spritzer but try not to overindulge. If you only have one or two holiday events to attend, it may be easier to stick to your strategy than having three or more. The more parties you have, the more important it will be to have and stick to your plan. Concentrate on enjoying the atmosphere, company, and conversation so the food will be less enticing. And don't forget to continue your exercise routine as it will  help to offset extra calories and reduce stress.

Holiday stress can be extremely difficult to manage. There are so many things to do and a seemingly short amount of time to do them. If you're not an early planner, holiday shopping alone can feel overwhelming. If that's the case, take a deep breath and remember what the season means to you. To most people, the season is about showing gratitude and love for our family and friends. How you show your love is completely up to you. If finances are tight this year, as they are for many, try doing something different this year. Your budget may not be able to handle lots of gifts for loved ones so making simple and easy DIY gifts may be exactly what fits your needs. A handwritten note can touch someone's heart in ways that a gift card may not. Be creative.

Finally, don't forget to take time out for taking care of yourself. It's so easy to focus on everyone else's needs this season but you're important too. Take a hot bath or brisk walk, read a chapter of a good book, or visit with a friend. You'll find that the downtime will recharge your batteries and you'll be ready and able to tackle the holiday season.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

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by Peggy Maslanka

Margaret, a woman with ADHD, always tried so very hard to achieve her ideal of the perfect holiday. She cooked, entertained, and bought presents according to this ideal, not only for her own husband and children, but for extended family and friends as well. But over the years, she noticed that instead of feeling happy and proud about the lovely Thanksgiving dinners she served and the magical Christmases she created, she felt depleted and depressed.

The holidays capture the imagination of women who have ADHD, because they speak to her creativity, her deeply held feelings about the significance of these special times, and her enjoyment in the excitement and stimulation that surrounds them. They can imagine themselves creating the most sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, the most beautiful holiday decorations, and the most thoughtful gifts for every loved one. And they eagerly anticipate sharing all this with extended family and old friends.

But often, this very ability to imagine perfection and to demand it of themselves conflicts with the increased challenges that the holidays bring, especially those around organization. Usually, the perfection cannot be achieved, and this can lead to the feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness that constitute depression. Even if it is achieved, the cost is so high, that depression is still the result.

One busy Thanksgiving time, Margaret's husband argued for buying prepared dishes that required only a few minutes of heating the microwave. Margaret balked. That was cheating! But then she began to think about all the recipes she wouldn't have to follow, all the ingredients she wouldn't have to search for in the overwhelming supermarket, all the evenings she wouldn't have to spend preparing a dozen different dishes, and all the stress she wouldn't feel trying to coordinate everything to be served at the same moment.         

But how could Thanksgiving dinner be perfect without all her traditional, homemade dishes and desserts?

A creative, open-minded thinker, Margaret decided to write a description of what actually made Thanksgiving special for her. To her surprise, she couldn't remember enjoying any of the things in her description since she'd taken on the task of cook and hostess. She hadn't enjoyed the anticipation of people arriving – it just made her anxious because she wasn't ready for them yet; she hadn't enjoyed the delicious smells because she was too anxious about getting everything in and out of the oven at the right times; and she hadn't enjoyed the meal itself, or the beautiful feelings of love, appreciation, and togetherness, which were the whole point of the day, because by the time she sat down, she was so over-stressed and exhausted.

Maybe all her beliefs about what constituted the perfect Thanksgiving dinner actually made it less perfect.

So she took the plunge, and served the prepared foods. They weren't quite as delicious – but they were fine. And instead of feeling stressed beforehand and depressed afterwards, Margaret felt pleasure in the day, the company, and the meal. And the next day, because she actually had some energy, she wrote a description of what actually made Christmas special for her. The word "perfect" was nowhere to be found.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD)/Attention Defficet Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

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By Jayson Blair

In the classic Christmas carol playlist, Let It Snow, one of my favorites, I find myself at times fixating, out of context, on the words “no place to go.” Whether I am listening to Dean Martin, Bing Crosby or Carly Simon sing it, my mind will often move from the cheerful ode to snow to the sense of imprisonment that can come during the time of year.

Trapped by the holiday schedule. Trapped by gift buying. Trapped by the expectations of others. Trapped by the limitations on finances. Moreover, trapped, at times, by family and friends you just not might not be a delight for hours on-end.

Many of us find that the weather and depression of the season are not the only thing out there that is frightful.

For many of us, for all of the upsides of the holiday cheer, the suffocation of the season is one of the most difficult parts of this time of year, and, often, it feels as if there is no way out.

As has been countlessly noted in other places, people with depression and seasonal effective disorder often feel out of sync with the rest of the world at this time of year. As the populous at large puts on their holiday cheer, those who struggle with moods this time of year often find themselves sinking further because the gap between how everyone else is doing and how they are feeling. One seasonally affected client of mine likes to describe the holidays as a time of “doing good, but not feeling good.” For those with depression and seasonal affective disorder, this feeling of being trapped by the expectations of the holiday season can be overwhelming.

But this notion of feeling trapped is not isolated to the seasonally affected. The expectations of the season are something that everyone else can struggle with.
The Oft Portrayed Image of the Season

After all, how many people are worrying right now about the number of pies that they have to bake for Thanksgiving? How many are worrying about the brother, mother, cousin, mother-in-law, father or sister that they do not like being around who they are going to have to spend gobs of time with over the holidays? How many people are wondering whether they are going to be able to come up with enough money to get their daughter that American Girl doll she wants?

The Reality for Many
Countless blogs with humorous tips ("develop a case of amenisa," "medicate yourself throught it," "become a vegan right before Thanksgiving) and countless memes litter the Internet to illustrate the point.

There is little doubt that there will be pained expressions at the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables over the coming weeks and in the lines to buy Xbox game consoles.

Over the years, I have found that people do best over the holidays when they set boundaries, some that might lead to upsetting or dashing expectations, including, at times, our own eagerness to please.
Sometimes that thing is a gift. Sometimes it is our time. Sometimes it is a little bit out of the emotional bank that we have that is tapped out and on a path to overdraft. I would be the first to encourage you to make the most of the holidays, but when making others happy is undoing our own happiness, it is probably a good time to reevaluate our approach to life and setting of boundaries.

Setting these boundaries – with people, over your presence, your comfort, their behavior, their expectations and other matters – are a great way to make sure you get the most out of the holiday season. Having spent a Christmas dinner or two in a T.G. Fridays or a bar in New York because there was no emotionally safe place to go,  has been efficiently more healthy than going through the motions at a hostile holiday dinner. Letting people know that you are tapped out – either emotionally, physically or financially – is a way to prevent others from being disappointed and from you developing resentments.

The path to happiness is sometimes paved with tears, many of them falling because we cannot give everyone everything that they want or need, and, at other times, no matter what we do, we just will not be able to make some people happy. Sometimes in life we just need to embrace our own limits and I tend to believe that this is an acute necessity this time of the year.

Identifying, embracing and staying true to what you need is the best gift you could give yourself for the holiday season.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.
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